Sueño MLS: Handicapping the race for the Sueño MLS title after final test vs. Galaxy U-18s
CARSON, Calif. -- Alexander Soto scored another superb goal, Cristian Soto was again remarkable running things in midfield, and Josue Soto impressed with another regal showing up front.
The three Sotos all helped their causes, and they weren't the only ones, as the Sueño MLS finalists wrapped up their big test, a 90-minute friendly against the LA Galaxy's U-18 Academy side, on Saturday morning at the Home Depot Center's Track and Field Stadium.
They lost the match -- the Galaxy pulled out a 2-1 victory, aided by an errant offside call on a second Sueño goal -- but passed the exams, for the most part, leaving difficult decisions for MLS director of player programs Alfonso Mondelo and his staff before Sunday's announcement of the Sueño MLS winner on Univision's Republica Deportiva (12-2 p.m. ET).
“It's a tough call, because I think there were several who showed different things over the last few days, and the top six or seven all showed that they could be picked,” Mondelo told MLSsoccer.com. “I think the majority of this group has the potential to play professionally.
WATCH: Josue Soto on Republica Deportiva
“If they get into the right environment, and then do they progress the right way? Are they going to be focused and are they going to dedicate themselves and do all the little things that a professional has to do? Don't get caught up in the smoke and mirrors, and put the work in. The character, the attitude and the discipline -- those are the three things you cannot give a player.”
Alex Soto, a 14-year-old midfielder from Elizabeth, N.J., appears the frontrunner after outstanding performances marked by wonderful goals in both Sueño games, a knack for connecting with teammates and an on-field understanding well beyond his years. His goal Saturday was a real beauty, a 26-yard free kick that caromed off the crossbar and into the net, then bounced out and was counted only after the referee checked in with his assistant.
“I feel good about tomorrow,” Alex Soto said. “I hope I win. But if I don't, I'll have the same attitude: keep going on.”
Cristian Soto, a 17-year-old playmaker from Indianapolis, is an expert problem-solver who provides a firm foundation on both sides of the ball.
Josue Soto, a 17-year-old midfielder from Perris, Calif., was a classy presence on the front line. They're certainly in the bidding, and so is dynamic forward Bryan Argueta, 15, from Gaithersburg, Md., whose goal was waved off just before halftime; and striker Bret LaBonte, 16, of Frederick, Md., who was key as the Sueño side took command of the game in the second half. All of them made big statements Saturday.
WATCH: Sueño GKs on show
“Everyone has a chance,” Cristian Soto said. “[It's] just up to the coaches, what they decide and who they're going to choose. But we're still all winners, like they've been saying. Even if you don't win, keep your head up. You don't know who else is looking at you, so you have to keep on playing.”
The battle for the Allstate Good Hands Goalkeeping Award might be tighter than the Sueño top prize. Former Mexican international goalkeeper Felix Fernandez, who is also a Republica Deportiva host, says all three finalists -- Luis Aranzazu of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; Heriberto Becerra of Fontana, Calif.; and Daniel Ontiveros of Denver, all of them 17 -- are “a very good level.”
“They were awesome,” Fernandez said. “We have an outstanding level this year. It's really, really tough to make a decision. They're very even, with different skills, but they are all great goalkeepers.”